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Kairouan is a city in northern Tunisia’s inland desert. It became a powerful trading hub and center of Islamic scholarship in the 9th century, when Aghlabid emirs ruled Kairouan and built many of its monuments. The Great Mosque, on the edge of the medina, with its antique columns and imposing minaret, dates from this period and is a major pilgrimage site. For Muslims, 7 trips here are said to equal one hajj to Mecca.